|Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out|
The Massacre (Interscope)
50 CENT GETS RICH, AND WE WILL NOW DIE TRYIN' TO GET HIM TO QUIT.
A couple of years ago 50 Cent slammed onto the scene with all the right ingredients for success-a good single, a badass past and all the right friends. To top it off, the soft-spoken street-rapper was being praised and mentored by the epic Dre and Em who brilliantly slung his pre-fame South Jamaica Queens past to the public with a fervor equal to (or greater than) that of his music. Not surprisingly, Get Rich or Die Tryin' shot up the charts, ultimately selling 11 million copies. Long story short, Fiddy did, in fact, get rich, but unfortunately, he lived to tell about it on his latest album, The Massacre. Harsh.
Once again, preemptive charades have boosted 50's record sales, but quite honestly, for entertainment purposes, I'd take a shooting outside of New York's Hot97 and another G-Unit debacle at the Vibe Awards any day over The Massacre itself-with its mediocre production that frankly outshines its lyrical content. While you've gotta give the guy props for putting out a hip-hop record with 21 tracks (sans the silly skits), his internal monologue just doesn't seem advanced enough to fill the britches of such a lofty endeavor. Thus, 50 usually ends up tumbling into the usual pitfalls that rappers do when they don't have all that much to talk about-namely subjects like money, hoes, gats and whose ass they want to kick. While danceable singles (the best one being "Hate It or Love It") and big names (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Jamie Foxx and G-Unit) will most definitely keep this album on the charts, the charts have never been a very good indicator of talent-but then again, neither have music critics. (Alex Valdivieso)
Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None)
MAXIMUM R&B GOES MINIMUM VOICE AND...MORE VOICE.
The original 1967 version of The Who Sell Out was the album on which the Who pretended they'd sold out to advertisers, alternating psychedelic blasts with tiny jingles for radio stations and guitar strings, longer commercials for baked beans and acne medicine, and at least one gorgeous pop song that abruptly turns into an ad for "Odorono" deodorant. (The Who actually did record ads for Coca-Cola and Great Shakes, so it wasn't exactly a principled burst of sarcasm-more an evocation of pirate radio's mixture of art and commerce.)
At the suggestion of Mike Watt, the crystal-voiced Petra Haden (formerly of That Dog, now playing violin with the Decemberists) has recorded this multitracked solo, a cappella version of the entire original album. She duplicates the sounds of its harmonies, its instrumentation, its beginning-of-song count-offs-everything. Some of the results could use a bit less translation and more reinterpretation.
But its best moments-"Armenia, City in the Sky" (on which Haden makes her voice a sunburst of backwards guitars) and especially "I Can See for Miles" (presented as an almost percussionless drone) are brilliant recastings of the Who's sound. These songs by the most muscular and athletic of bands, stripped of their armor, turn pale and translucent, revealing the phenomenal depth of their arrangements. And in replicating the whole fake-advertising apparatus of Sell Out, Haden has become a little like Jorge Luis Borges' Pierre Menard, the 20th-century novelist who rewrites Don Quixote word for word, utterly changing its meaning by changing its context. (Douglas Wolk)